Knowledge Management in Accenture Thesis

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Accenture Knowledge Management

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Thesis on Knowledge Management in Accenture Assignment

To the extent that Accenture excels at knowledge management is the extent to which it this globally-based consultancy can attain its long-term revenue and profit objectives. Critical to Accenture's day-to-day fulfillment of clients' projects is the need for managing knowledge as a strategic asset (Paik, Choi, 2005), creating taxonomies that are process-based rather than reflecting the tight, often insular silos that typically the Accenture culture during the time period of the case study (Terjessen, 2003). Accenture has many impediments to being able to use knowledge management as a competitive asset, with the most significant being a lack of shared ownership of the data within the organization and a resulting proliferation of portals, some more fully populated with data and search functionality than others, yet all lacking cross-department and cross-division integration (Meister, 2005). During the time period of interest Accenture is comprised of a Communications and High Tech Division, Financial Services, Government, Products and Resources Division. Each of these divisions has perpetuated sporadic and often incomplete processes for transforming their knowledge into a shared corporate asset. Given how balkanized this has made Accenture, with each separate portal created for a specific purpose, project or process, resistance to change becomes more significant (Benbya, Passiante, Belbaly, 2004). The many challenges for Accenture emanate from how the company has structured its organization to foster and nurture individual performance for clients yet desperately needs knowledge collaboration and knowledge management at the division, intra-divisional and corporate levels. The intent of this analysis is to present an organizational audit for Accenture, evaluating key management practices first, then identify and evaluate the key issues and challenges the company faced as it attempted to create an enterprise-wide knowledge management strategy. The paper concludes with a strategic management plan for Accenture to overcome the many challenges they face in unifying the exceptionally high level and quality of knowledge the company's talented employees generate daily.

Assessing Accenture Using an Organizational Audit

The development of organizational knowledge is an accumulative process that is heavily dependent on the culture of an organization, the clarity of its processes, systems and role integration to support strategic plans and objectives (Khalifa, Yu, Shen, 2008). For Accenture, their core business value proposition relies heavily on the ability to quickly transform knowledge into a deliverable to a client, from the simplest project or plan to the most complex programming projects. The timeframes within Accenture, as has been stated often in the case (Terjessen, 2003) are often highly compressed and bordering unrealistic given the depth and magnitude of projects taken on. In the highly time-constrained aspects of Accenture's business model that seeks to quickly and thoroughly resolve complex, very difficult challenges of their clients, having an enterprise-wise knowledge management strategy is crucial. For Accenture, speed and completeness of response to clients is directly proportional to their ability to transform knowledge from a tactical asset to a strategic one.

The ability of any organization, including Accenture, to transform its culture to support the creation of knowledge as the competitive differentiator vs. competing on pricing for goods and services often attains higher profitability in the long-term (Song, 2008). This dynamic is due to knowledge becoming the competitive advantage in terms of the R&D, product development in manufacturing-centric industries, and for knowledge-intensive ones, the ability to deliver exceptional insight, valuable knowledge that can quickly transform their clients' businesses (Ngai, Jin, Liang, 2008). Accenture is also called upon to be process-centric in their prescriptive guidance to service companies and manufacturers alike. In serving this latter group of clients, Accenture's gaps and lapses in knowledge management are particularly acute in the lack of process knowledge orientation and process management expertise as it relates to manufacturing clients' strategic planning needs. The extent of differentiation between serviced-based fulfillment and services processes relative to manufacturing-based fulfillment and services requires exceptional knowledge management skills to navigate (Paiva, Roth, Fensterseifer, 2008). In other words, the siloing of knowledge by division, department or even work team over time robs Accenture from the ability to quickly fulfill the expectations of their clients. As Accenture serves clients across manufacturing and services sectors, an audit of their approach to knowledge management and lack of cross-divisional collaboration degenerates their ability to be as effective as they can be in the service of clients. Lack of a consistent knowledge management within any organization potentially impacts their credibility and inhibits their ability to become trusted advisors to their clients over the long-term (Buchen, 35 -- 37). Accenture's efficiency then is not at stake; their reputation and ability to continually get new business is however. Accenture can also become more of a catalyst for significant market growth and be a source of innovation in the industries that are by nature knowledge-intensive by concentrating on their own knowledge management strategies as well. Accenture has the potential to become a significant force in industries they serve that rely on knowledge management as a core part of their businesses as well. Research shown on the effects of collaboration in knowledge-intensive industries can make the difference between their growth in aggregate or not (Bjornson, Dingsoyr, 2008), (Liu, Liu, 2008). Knowledge is the catalyst by which organizations learn over time how to increase their performance and attain higher levels of efficiency, leading to greater profitability. The correlation of an organizations' culture to create and nurture knowledge, transforming it into Intellectual Capital (IC) that is defensible as a competitive advantage, is a crucial factor in the long-term viability of any organizations' financial health (Moustaghfir, 2008). For Accenture, not only their credibility, but also their long-term financial growth is going to be dictated to how they attack the massive inconsistencies in how knowledge is categorized, stored and accessed on client-based engagements. Intellectual Capital is defined as knowledge an organization creates based on its unique competitive strengths. In addition, organizations that are adept at transforming their knowledge into Intellectual Capital also have defined processes for ensuring that knowledge is retained from one generation of workers to the next (Blankenship, Brueck, 2008). For Accenture, the ability to transform knowledge into Intellectual Capital, they also begin to experience a network effect (Themistocleous, Mantzana, Morabito, 2009) where knowledge acts as the catalyst for the creation of entirely different, and much more streamlined processes that align to strategic objectives of the organization (Wagner, 2002).

How Knowledge Acquires Value in Organizations

Arguably the economic growth of Accenture is more related to their ability to quickly and correctly interpret, analyze, and respond to internal and external events than on any other aspect of their business model. More broadly, any given organizations' ability to create taxonomies that are structured enough to provide guidance yet flexible enough to allow for role-based queries have consistently shown the ability to consistently deliver more differentiated and higher-quality products (Benbya, Passiante, Belbaly, 2004). In auditing the processes that Accenture relied on for knowledge management during this case study it is also clear that role-based queries had yet to be integrated into their workflows; portals were purely personal productivity tools in the majority of instances. Secondarily, the ontologies that Accenture needs to define interrelationships in data have become increasingly pervasive in the consulting and advisory services business models globally (Boh, 2008). Yet Accenture lacks ontological organization of their data and no apparent Enterprise Content Management (ECM) framework upon which to build from. As a result, Accenture is at a significant competitive disadvantage. While the company may perceive that time invested by its associates is the greatest competitive advantage, in fact it is the ability to define role-based and process-based workflows to the existing knowledgebase that is inaccessible and not usable enough to be of value to many Accenture employees.

The ECM framework that Accenture adopted initially was called the KX Global Roadmap, an ambitious, company-wide program for migrating off of Lotus Notes and onto a single, integrated network. The strategic value of the KX Global Roadmap was to provide for a transition from separate, often fragmented global communications to a single, unified organizational memory. The intent of this transition was to also transform Accenture from being a reactive organization to being one more focused on learning (Themistocleous, Mantzana, Morabito, 2009). In conjunction with a significant cultural shift, the intent was to create an organization that could produce knowledge as a key asset in and of itself; in other words the strategic plan was for Accenture to eventually become a "learning organization" as a result of the development of the KX Global Roadmap.

From the audit completed of their existing knowledge management practices however, it is clear that taxonomies shared across divisions are rarely found; in fact taxonomies are more often created between associates who must rely on each other to share data. Conversely, Accenture's future growth is specifically tied to their ability to create an ECM framework that can also change the culture at the same time. Previous frameworks which have succeeded begin first with the development of an enterprise-wide data warehouse that is created through the use of Enterprise Application… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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